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Why Nutrition in the Workplace Matters  

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Workplace Wellbeing

What is the greatest gift you could give to your valuable staff and employees? Your first instinct maybe to think of salaries, bonuses, holidays, training and a fun work environment – one that allows people to develop and grow. These are all very important and commendable components that caring employees look to provide.

However, the truth is that two of life’s greatest gifts are time and health. As an employer, you cannot influence how people manage their time outside of work but in actual fact you can influence their health and wellbeing. This has the power to give your employees the biggest and most precious benefits.

People who have good knowledge of health and nutrition, typically enjoy more energy and vitality, they avoid life threatening diseases and they live longer lives. In the last decade, research has proven that nutritional literacy and intelligent eating regimes has the power to reverse type 2 diabetes and heart disease and can help to overcome cancer.

Nutrition and Mental Health

There is also a growing body of research that strongly links diet with mental health.  Science suggests that how we eat can increase or decrease our risk of anxiety and depression.

There is no denying the fact that in recent years, the Western diet has become very industrialised.  Many of our foods are heavily processed and we are now seeing the link between this and our emotional wellbeing.  Just as we are facing an obesity epidemic, we are also experiencing a mental health crisis.

Supporting your employees to establish healthy nutrition habits is therefore key to the success of your business.  How and what your staff eat directly impacts productivity.  A happy and healthy workforce not only benefits each individual, it will increase your efficiency and contribute to a much more positive workplace.

It is all too easy to view food as fuel to get you through the day.  We are all busier than ever these days and competition is fierce.  The lure of fast, unhealthy food is therefore incredibly strong; we don’t have time to think about nutritious options when we have a deadline to meet, we want the quickest, easiest option.  But the irony is that such choices often leave us feeling lethargic, tired and even demotivated.

Excellent nutrition is the foundation of happiness, longevity and achievement.  It helps to improve energy and mood which can only compliment the exercise or mindfulness practices that other aspects of your wellbeing programme may be encouraging.

A robust nutrition strategy should therefore underpin an entire wellness initiative.

So, what can you do as an employer or a manager?

How to get started

First and foremost, you need to gauge where your staff are at.  You may have one team, or you may have one hundred; either way, this is a crucial step.

There are a number of ways you can go about this depending on the size of your business.  You could develop a sub group of people to chat with each employee to find out where they are with regards their diet and lifestyle preferences.  This can be a key indicator of how healthy your staff are and you may even identify patterns across teams that need addressing in different ways.

You could also send out questionnaires that can be anonymised, this can offer more revealing results but does not always allow for the deeper probing and understanding that personal, 121 conversations offer.

You could even employ a Nutritionist to come in and do a health check; if you are a large organisation then you may want to start with your executive board or select a sample of staff to be consulted with.

Whichever approach you choose will give you a deeper insight in the needs that your individual business has so that you can develop a plan accordingly.

Environment

Whilst you certainly don’t want or need to eliminate all existing options available to staff in your vending machines or canteens, increasing the number of healthy options you have would be prudent.  The Society for Human Management as revealed that ideally, organisations give their employees ‘what they want and need – a wide array of food options’.

People don’t like to be told that they have to eat in a certain way do like to be given a choice.  By doing so, you as a company are fulfilling your role of promoting good nutrition and then it is ultimately the employees’ decision.

Education

Nutrition education is key.  If you carry out the first step of consulting with employees, then you will quickly learn where you need to pitch this.  The reality is that with the rise of the diet industry and social media, many people are utterly confused about how to eat healthily. Everywhere we turn, some new guru is giving out another new message or scaring us in to believing something is bad for our health.  This can lead to staff either trying too hard or giving up all together.

As an employer, it is one of your primary roles to ensure that your employees are safe, healthy and knowledgeable about how to stay so.  You can do this by:

  • Working on a nutrition education plan with a Nutritionist
  • Holding educational workshops or seminars
  • Offering ‘lunch and learn’ opportunities
  • Negotiating discounted consultations with a Nutritionist
  • Sending out healthy recipes and diet suggestions
  • Setting health and/or weight loss challenges
  • Offering your top tier of staff a complete nutrition package.

Don’t go down the route of having a one off day or isolated workshop – this can overwhelm your staff.  Break it down in to a manageable strategy that is fun and engaging, one that will equip your staff for life.  Building a good relationship with a local Nutritionist is also important, it means that your staff will know where they can go for more detailed information and advice.  Taking good care of your employees will only benefit you in the long run.

Summary

You may feel that the nutrition habits of your staff are none of your business but this couldn’t be further from the truth.  Of course, you do need to approach some situations sensitively and cannot impose lifestyle changes on anyone.  This is why education and the support of a caring, understanding professional to guide you is key.

So be the best business in your field by creating a strong, happy and healthy workforce – fuel your team to success!